Mar. 15th, 2013

liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Lots of people saying sensible things about Google closing down its Reader (RSS feed reading system). [twitter.com profile] j4 linked to an article with a fairly novel take on the issue, and one I agree with: the loss of private and silent reading. Actually I left Google Reader a while back because I thought it had too much social, it wasn't achieving the goals Roberts sets out of being able to read and think without getting caught up in popularity contests and emotional echo chambers. But those are certainly my goals. [personal profile] ursamajor makes a good point about why proposed Reader alternatives aren't if they're "popularity" algorithm-driven, ooh-shiny picture magazine style social networking apps.

Personally, I'm pretty happy with Netvibes as a reader that lets me read and doesn't broadcast my reading habits to friends or advertisers, nor shout at me to "share" the latest cool / shiny / funny meme. And it's not fuelled by self-reinforcing outrage cycles. I should mention about Netvibes that the actual feed reader part of it is kind of a side-benefit; what it actually is a business-focused analytics tool, which is why the paid version costs several hundred dollars a month. I like the fact that its business model is very much users as customers rather than users as product, and if all you want out of it is the feed reader, the free version is more than adequate. And as for social reading, I am basically using Twitter for that; people retweet interesting articles and I read them, which fulfils a different niche from blogs and ongoing conversations I want to follow on a regular basis. Right now I don't think I need anything more fully featured than that for social.

I am not so impressed by those who are being smug about "what do you expect if you rely on a free, proprietary service?!" For one thing, Google is a giant, they have pretty successfully killed off all possible rivals in this market niche, so what choice does one have? For a second thing, not everybody has the technical skill, time, spoons or resources to install stuff completely under their control on their own server. And if that were in fact the default behaviour any time you wanted to use any sort of service, can you imagine the security holes amateurs would be introducing all over the place? Yes, we can have a conversation about the importance of open standards as opposed to proprietary walled garden systems. That's not going to be achieved usefully by looking down on people who do in fact use Google's services, or Facebook (again, it sucks, but it's pretty much killed off all possible rivals, so what do you do?)

Talking of sharing information and standards, [personal profile] skibbley has a good rant on what he calls microbarriers. I think his piece is a very good example of why accessibility / usability is good for everybody, it's not just a concession generously made to those poor unfortunate disabled people. And a very big part of usability is presenting text as actual text, not expletive pictures of expletive text! (PDF: bad enough that it's proprietary, but it's a graphical format, which is useful if you need things to display exactly as composed, but extremely sub-optimal way of transmitting informational content.)

And finally, something that's cool and not really at all related to the above: Sica on Making Light posted a wonderful comment about Icelandic words for weather which appeals to the language geek in me. Also, If the person who made the awesome post about Swedish terms with stacked-up consonants recently wouldn't mind making a public version of it I would love to link to that too. I'll put it here as a guest post if you don't want your name associated with it.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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